Tesla has just released its Vehicle Safety Report for the third and fourth quarter of 2021, in which some of results improved to new record levels.

For the drivers who were using Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features), the company recorded one crash for every 4.97 million miles driven in Q3 (new all-time record) and one crash for every 4.31 million miles driven in Q4 (new quarterly best).

In the scenario of not using Autopilot technology (no Autosteer and active safety features), the numbers are - as usual - lower: respectively one crash for every 1.6 million miles driven in Q3 and one crash for every 1.59 million miles driven in Q4.

In brief:

  • Autopilot technology on (Autosteer and active safety features):
    Q3 2021:
    one accident for every 4.97 million miles driven (up 8%)
    Q4 2021:
    one accident for every 4.31 million miles driven (up 25%)
  • Autopilot technology off (no Autosteer and active safety features):
    Q3 2021:
    one accident for every 1.6 million miles driven (down 11%)
    Q4 2021:
    one accident for every 1.59 million miles driven (up 25%)

As we can see, the results were better than a year earlier (aside from Autopilot off in Q3). However, the problem with the evaluation of the progress is that too many external factors might significantly affect the results.

It's important to note that the results are comparable only for a particular category, not between the categories as the input data might be widely different. In other words, we can only see whether the active safety systems are improving over time (and it's also only a rough comparison), but we can't compare Autopilot to non-Autopilot driving.

We assume that the proper use of Autopilot improves safety, but Tesla's report does not allow us to evaluate the difference.

Tesla Vehicle Safety Report – Q4 2021

Let's take a look at how the results have changed since 2018. The average results for the U.S. have not been updated by the NHTSA.


Autopilot on vs U.S. average (NHTSA data):

  • Q1 2020: 8.77
  • Q2 2020: 8.46
  • Q3 2020: 8.58
  • Q4 2020: 6.13
  • Q1 2021: 7.66
  • Q2 2021: 8.11
  • Q3 2021: 9.27 (record)
  • Q4 2021: 7.90

The most recent two quarters were pretty good for Tesla in comparison with previous years:


Unfortunately, we can not say the same in the case of driving without Autopilot:


Important factors:

  • data for each setting might be collected at different driving scenarios (like simple highway driving or complex city driving), which makes the results incomparable between the categories
  • Tesla's info about the methodology of registering accidents:
    "We collect the amount of miles traveled by each vehicle with Autopilot active or in manual driving, based on available data we receive from the fleet, and do so without identifying specific vehicles to protect privacy. We also receive a crash alert anytime a crash is reported to us from the fleet, which may include data about whether Autopilot was active at the time of impact. To ensure our statistics are conservative, we count any crash in which Autopilot was deactivated within 5 seconds before impact, and we count all crashes in which the incident alert indicated an airbag or other active restraint deployed. (Our crash statistics are not based on sample data sets or estimates.) In practice, this correlates to nearly any crash at about 12 mph (20 kph) or above, depending on the crash forces generated. On the other hand, police-reported crashes from government databases are notoriously under-reported, by some estimates as much as 50%, in large part because most minor crashes (like “fender benders”) are not investigated. We also do not differentiate based on the type of crash or fault. (For example, more than 35% of all Autopilot crashes occur when the Tesla vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle.) In this way, we are confident that the statistics we share unquestionably show the benefits of Autopilot."
  • assuming the methodology was not changed, we can see how each category improves over time
  • NHTSA average for the U.S. (updated rarely) includes all cars, also old
  • results might be affected by various factors, including seasonality (reduced daylight, weather conditions), less driving during lockdown
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